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Illinois Parents Try To Get 'Smut' Out Of The Classroom

| by Sarah Zimmerman

One Illinois school district is making massive changes to its English curriculum after parents have complained that many of the required reading had sexual content not appropriate for teenagers.

Eric Michaelsen, Principal of Lemont High School sent out a mass-email to all parents saying that “The God of Small Things,” by Arundhati Roy, has been taken off the reading list of the Academic English II class.

“[The book] contains subject matter in some sections that is not appropriate for our students,” Michaelsen wrote in a Nov. 2 email, per Cook Country Chronicle. “The questionable passages were not assigned for students to read. The books have been collected and will not be used again.”

The Booker-prize winning novel has themes of sexual assault and incest, which some parents saw as inappropriate for their children. But that's not the only book that parents want on the cutting board.

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Laura Reigle, mother of a junior at the high school, wrote a blog post via Hypeline listing eight different titles on the required reading list that "contain sex, murder, suicide and homoeroticism and show that this concern is not of a one-off instance taking place in public education today."

The novels mentioned include "The Lovely Bones," "A Separate Peace," and "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," among others. 

Reigle isn't the only parent with these concerns. During a Nov. 21 school board meeting, others brought up their grievances with the texts.

"I’ve read some excerpts of [‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’] that include an 8-year-old getting raped; it’s very explicit,” said mother Mary Kay Fessler, per the Cook County Chronicle. “The sexual content is too much for their young minds to process. As an adult, yes, we can process that, but as a 14-, 15-,16-year-old, I don’t think they have the neurological [power] to process that."

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Another resident, Rick Ligthart, read a prepared statement to the board recommending that "no literature whatsoever be inclusive of literal metaphorical, figurative or allegorical words for male or female genitals."

"We can’t have 18-year-olds reading about masturbation or sexual issues, regardless of the literature. I don’t care if it’s from Dickens or who else," he added.

Advocates from the anti-censorship organization, the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, say that the parents' requests shield students from some of the "finest" literature and deny them the opportunity to grow academically. 

“An English class allows students to read the finest written books produced by the best writers and grow their literary experiences in a safe place where they can talk about the books. What’s a safer place than an English class?” asked spokesperson James LaRue. “Here’s a question, do children really need to be protected from too much reading?”

Sources: Cook Country Chronicle, Hypeline / Photo credit: Francisco Osorio/Flickr

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